Hungarian Brunch at 20th Century Cafe

Interior of 20th Century Cafe in Hayes Valley
Interior of 20th Century Cafe in Hayes Valley

While doing a search for Sunday brunch in Hayes Valley, we came across a charming cafe just a few blocks away from busy Hayes St. It was fairly empty when they opened at 10am but little by little patrons started to fill the seats. The interior was clean, bright and styled with a simple yet elegant European touch. Various baked goods were displayed on the marble countertop right next to the cashier so we got to check out the offerings while we waited in line. We ordered a potato knish, pierogi, strawberry strudel, and a Russian honey cake and for drinks I ordered a hot butterscotch and Mestelle ordered a Hibiscus Cardamom tea.

Our drinks and food came out promptly. They were served on cute pastel dishes like what you would find at an afternoon tea place. I took a sip of my butterscotch and it definitely tasted like butterscotch. I was afraid that it would be too sweet but it wasn’t and the spoonful of whipped cream on it added to the nice creamy texture. The first dish that we tried was the potato knish with little poppy seeds sprinkled on top that we cut in half with a knife. The knife made a crunch sound as it cut through the flakey crust. It was still warm inside and the mashed potato filling was well seasoned and savory. Next was the pierogi that came with damson (type of plum) preserves. The sweet preserves really worked well with the savory flavor of the dumplings. The savory dishes were actually a bit filling but there’s always room for desserts! The strawberry strudel also had a golden flakey interior with a bit of powdered sugar sprinkled. The strawberry filling was light and sweet with bits of cut up strawberry inside. Lastly, we tried the Russian honey cake. The layers were just the right amount of thickness and evenly distributed. I didn’t get tired of eating which I usually do with cakes and, like the strudel, it wasn’t too sweet. 
  
Hot Buttersctoch

Potato Knish

Pierogi with Damson Plum Reserve at 20th Century Cafe
Pierogi with Damson Plum Reserve

Strawberry Strudel at 20th Century Cafe
Strawberry Strudel

Russian Honey Cake at 20th Century Cafe
Russian Honey Cake
The place didn’t get too crowded, probably because it was so foggy that day that nobody wanted to go out, so we were able to take our time and enjoy our food. We actually came back about 2 hours later to see if they had more potato knishes to take home. They unfortunately ran out so I guess we have to come back again soon and hoard a bunch for take home. 
Various dishes at 20th Century Cafe in Hayes Valley
Various dishes at 20th Century Cafe in Hayes Valley.
For more information, check out their website at 20thcenturycafe.com.
Written by Jamie • Photos taken by Jamie

Saturday Brunch at Olea SF

I finally had the chance to try the local brunch spot Olea. It’s a corner shop located in the Nob Hill neighborhood of SF and it’s only open on the weekends from 9am to 2pm for breakfast/brunch. 
My friends and I waited about half an hour for seats on a Saturday at 11:30am. Surprisingly, I thought the wait would be longer but I guess we just got lucky. It was a nice sunny day anyway so we just chatted it up while we waited. There was outside seating available with tables and seats lining both sides of the restaurant but we were able to get seats indoors. The interior was cozy and charming with just enough tables to not feel crowded. 
The menu consisted of typical breakfast fare but with a bit of Mexican influence with dishes such as chilaquiles and huevos ranchero. We tried the cazuela, chilaquiles, sweet corn cakes, and shared the french toast. The food came out promptly so I snapped a few shots before we chowed down. The food was good and I didn’t feel heavy at all after eating. What stood out was the french toast which was much more creamy that typical french toasts. The egg was completely soaked into the bread making it super light and creamy. 
Overall a good brunch spot to check out with friends. I would come back to try the other Mexican style dishes and have the french toast again. 
Cazuela at Olea SF
Cazuela 

Chilaquiles at Olea SF
Chilaquiles

Sweet Corn Cakes at Olea SF
Sweet Corn Cakes

Olea's Challah Custard Toast at Olea SF
Olea’s Challah Custard Toast

For more information, check out Olea’s Facebook page
Written by Jamie • Photos taken by Jamie

Martin Yan Cooking Demonstration at Macy’s Union Square

Macy's Chinese New Year Decoration.
Macy’s Chinese New Year Decoration. 

Macy’s Union Square hosted a cooking demo with celebrity chef Martin Yan last Saturday at the Cellar located on the lower level. I’ve watched my fair share of cooking shows but Martin Yan’s Yan Can Cook on PBS is one of the earliest that I remember enjoying as a kid. With his Chinese cleaver, he could chop up a storm. Going back and forth in rhythm while not even looking at his hands.

The event was sold out but there were people hanging around the sides just to catch a glimpse. A brief introduction was given by the Macy’s staff and then Martin Yan was popped up at the front and was greeted with a round of applause. At 69 years old, he’s still going strong, with a new series called Yan Can Cook: Spice Kingdom, as he goes around Chengdu China for some Sichuan cuisine. The Yan Can Cook series has aired since 1982! That’s a lot of episodes. He then had the audience say out loud, “gung hay fat choy”, or roughly “happy new year” in Cantonese. Well, it is Lunar New Year, as well as the day of the Chinese New Year Parade, after all.

Martin Yan and M.Y. China's executive chef Tony Wu
Martin Yan and M.Y. China’s executive chef Tony Wu

Martin Yan knife demonstration.
Martin Yan knife demonstration.
Tony Wu hand pulled noodles demonstration.
Tony Wu hand pulled noodles demonstration.

After a bit more plugging of his new show and Macy’s products, he got behind the chopping board and got the show started. He pulled out his signature Chinese cleaver and started banging away at some metal pans to demonstrate his drumming skills. Yup, he is still full of energy and has the same sense of humor that he has on the show. He then started to slice and chop some vegetables for plating. Afterwards, he had the audience time him while he deboned a whole chicken in 18 seconds.

For the next part of the demo, Martin Yan introduced noodle master Tony Wu, the executive chef of his restaurant M.Y. China. The first noodle that he made was the scissor cut noodles that are literally cut by using a scissor. He cut a few evenly sized pieces with precision. A lucky or maybe not so lucky audience member was chosen to make some scissor cut noodles up front with the chefs. Martin Yan was quick to point out the flaws in her technique. I guess we have to go to his restaurant to get some professionally cut noodles.
Martin Yan showing the hand pulled noodle dish to the audience.
Martin Yan showing the hand pulled noodle dish to the audience. 
Scissor cut noodles sample.
Scissor cut noodles sample. I wish they a bigger portion. 

Hand pulled noodles sample.
Hand pulled noodles sample.

Both chefs then started sautéing up some vegetables and then added scissor cut noodles to make a chow mein style dish. And now the best part of the demo, the samples! Whenever I watch cooking shows with a live audience, I always get envious that they could sample what the chef was making. Now, my dream has come true. Tiny wooden plates with the noodles were handed out and I finally got to try some yummy cooking demo food.

Noodle master Tony Wu then demonstrated the hand-pulled noodles where he continuously stretched and twirled the dough into thin strands. This was entertaining to watch as he walked around the center aisle, spinning the noodles, careful not to get the dough stuck anywhere. Samples of the hand-pulled noodles were also given out in a tiny plastic bowl. I could taste the sichuan peppers in the sauce.

At the end of the event, fans lined up to get a photo with Martin Yan as well as a signed photo. I think I will make a stop at M.Y. China for some of these professionally made noodles sometime soon.

Dragon ceiling installation at Macy's.
Dragon ceiling installation at Macy’s. 

I Heart Boba Guys

Strawberry Matcha Latte and hot hojicha latte at Boba Guys SF
Strawberry Matcha Latte and hot hojicha latte.

A week doesn’t go by without a visit to Boba Guys. It’s become a ritual to get at least a Strawberry Matcha Latte with my husband. We’ve unintentionally started planning our day around when to visit Boba Guys.

A typical conversation would go, “So do we get lunch and then go to Boba Guys or go before?” or “Should we go to Japantown to have lunch instead of going to the Sunset since we can go to Boba Guys afterwards?”

A 24oz milk tea from Boba Guys is a weekly goal. They have a variety of flavors that range from the typical Hong Kong milk tea, black tea to the more creative strawberry matcha latte or horchatta mixes. Our go to drinks are a strawberry match latte and a strawberry tea fresca with added milk. A sip of these drinks and my week is complete.

Strawberry tea fresca with milk at Boba Guys SF
Strawberry tea fresca with milk. 
The drinks are pricier, about $3-$4 more than the average boba shop but as their slogan goes, it’s “next level quality”. They use premium teas, Straus organic milk, house made syrups, made from scratch jellies, and Grade A boba balls, which I’m not sure what that entails but I’ve had their tapioca and it’s good stuff.

The image they’ve crafted also reinforces the quality of their drinks. The stores are clean and bright with a simple black and white color scheme. The menu is organized and any specialty drinks are hung on small clipboards at the side of their registers. Instead of easily just hand writing it down and sloppily pasting it on their menu which I’ve seen other shops do. Simple things like that make make all the difference in separating themselves from their competitors and creating an environment that is attractive. And, it’s a place you can introduce your non-Asian friends for some boba milk tea.

Boba Guys started out as a small pop-up in 2011 and quickly expanded to now have 9 (6 in SF and 3 in New York) stores in 2018. The more I’ve read up on the founders of the company, the more I’m impressed with how they’ve managed to maintain such focus on their product as well as create an environment that breeds happy employees. Their stores appear to be manned by 20 early somethings diligently churning out quality drink after drink. I think it boils to caring about the company you’re working for and believing in the product.

Matchata at Boba Guys SF
Matchata

The last time I visited one of their stores, I picked up a booklet from their shelves. Inside were models posing with their boba drinks while wearing their boba shirts. It kind of reminded me of a lifestyle brand. From pop-up shop to selling boba bae sweatshirts and logo tumblers, they’ve come a long way. 

Despite all the shiny exterior, when it comes down to it, their drinks just tastes better.


For more information, check out their website at bobaguys.com.
Written by Jamie • Photos taken by Jamie

New England Lobster Market & Eatery

New England Lobster Market & Eatery is a hidden gem if you love a good old fashion lobster roll. If I hadn’t done a quick yelp search of this place a few years ago, I wouldn’t have ever have thought that such a place existed. My dad is a fan of shell-fish so I thought we might head over to check the place out again. 
It is just off of the highway 101 Millbrae Ave exit on a quiet road filled with ordinary office buildings. The restaurant is easy to spot as they have an outdoor seating area filled with picnic tables and umbrellas. Parking can be hard if you go during lunch time as the parking lot at the back was already full. We had to take a few circles around the block to get street parking. 
The menu is straightforward with choices for ordering whole Maine lobster platters, lobster tails, Dungeness crab plates and sandwiches, salads, soups, crab nachos, seafood tacos and even a few non-seafood items like a BLT or a hot dog. They also serve alcohol so you can have a nice tall glass of beer to go with your lobster tail.

My dad ordered a dressed lobster roll which has a bit of mayo and salt and pepper as the dressing. The roll also came with a side of coleslaw and house-made potato chips. I ordered the crab nachos. The restaurant had ample seating indoors with as well as outdoors with large communal tables. We didn’t wait too long before our order came out. Both the lobster roll and crab nachos looked beautiful. Luckily, my dad couldn’t finish his roll so he gave me half. The bread had a nice golden toasted texture to it and the lobster was so fresh with just enough dressing to not overpower the lobster flavor. My nachos consisted of the house-made chips with crab meat, cheese, salsa and lastly it was topped with a tasty greenish jalapeño nacho sauce. It was so good and filling and definitely worth the price tag. 


Exterior of New England Lobster Market & Eatery Interior of New England Lobster Market & Eatery
Lobster Roll at New England Lobster Market & Eatery
Lobster Roll
Crab Nachos at New England Lobster Market & Eatery
Crab Nachos

Seafood Market at New England Lobster Market & Eatery Seafood Market at New England Lobster Market & Eatery

The restaurant also doubles as a seafood market. Upon entering, the left side is the market where you can find freezers full of seafood as well as do to go orders of fresh lobster, crab, shrimp, clams, oyster, scallops, and a few other seafood items. The great thing about this place too is that it doesn’t smell fishy like you would expect of a seafood market. It’s a clean environment so you won’t be smelling of rotten fish when you leave. 

They also have a happy hour menu on weekdays from 3-6pm with $3 shrimp tacos up to $7 lobster tacos. I would frequent this place more often if it was in San Francisco but I guess it’s a good thing or I’d be broke. Prices are as expected for quality seafood, with rolls averaging about $24, so it’s more of a once in a while indulgence. A very worthwhile indulgence!

For more information, check out their website at newenglandlobster.net.
Written by Jamie • Photos taken by Jamie



Ippudo SF Now Open

The long awaited opening of Ippudo has finally happened in San Francisco on January 28. This is their second location in the West Coast, the first location opened in Berkeley in 2017. It is conveniently located on Yerba Buena Lane between Market and Mission Streets and right next to Press Club.

After catching a movie at the Metreon, a few friends and I happened to pass by Ippudo not realizing that it was the grand opening. We all agreed that we might as well try it since we were there already. However, there was a long line outside which looked to be an hour wait. If you’ve been reading this blog since the start, then you know that I’ve never been one to be discouraged by a line. Plus, they provided heaters to keep us warm while we stood outside in the cold.

Exterior of Ippudo SF on Opening Day
Exterior of Ippudo SF on Opening Day


Interior of Ippudo SF
Interior of Ippudo SF


Large Soup Spoon at Ippudo SF
That’s one big soup spoon!

I’ve eaten at Ippudo once in Sydney, Australia and once more in Tokyo, Japan so I was curious to see what the US shop would be like. Right when you enter, there is a bar to the right so you can get drinks while you wait. Straight ahead, you pass through an entrance to the main dining room. It is well lit and roomy with high ceilings. There’s one large communal table near the entrance and a few booths along the walls and even a separate room for a private party. The style was pretty much similar to what I remembered for the one in Sydney.

Our waiter soon came by and gave us our menus. The front page listed the ramen along with toppings. There are three base options for the broth: Shiromaru Classic, which is their standard tonkotsu broth, Akamaru Modern, which is topped with a special miso paste, and lastly the Karaka Spicy which is their spicy version. The ramen also comes with the restaurant’s thin style of noodles which is different from the more typical thicker noodles that I’m use to seeing at US ramen shops. The menu also has a small diagram that lists the options for preferred levels of firmness of the noodle from yawa (soft) to bari kata (firm). The back listed the appetizers, desserts and alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.

| FOR STARTERS |
Chashu Rice at Ippudo SF
Chashu Rice


| THE MAINS |
Shiromaru Classic Ippudo SF
Shiromaru Classic

Akamaru Modern at Ippudo SF
Akamaru Modern

Karaka Spicy at Ippudo SF
Karaka Spicy

| THE FINALE |

Matcha Ice Cream at Ippudo SF Lychee Ice Cream at Ippudo SF

We ordered the three different kinds of ramen as well as a chashu (simmered pork belly) rice bowl to share. They also offered ice cream for dessert so we tried the matcha and lychee flavors. They were light and helped after eating something so filling.

The food came out promptly and I would say that it was all satisfying for a cold Sunday night. However, it was an expensive bowl. The cheapest bowl of ramen was listed at $14 and the most expensive was $20, not including any of the topping options. Since the popularity of ramen has exploded in recent years, it seems to be the trend to charge around $15 a bowl in the City. Also, service was a bit slow but it’s understandable since they’re brand new. On the other hand, we didn’t feel rushed at all considering how many people were waiting. I would come back again if I was in the area and if I was craving some ramen in a trendy environment.

For more information, check out their website at ippudo-us.com.

Written by Jamie • Photos taken by Jamie